Janet Sheridan: I continue my education
When I last shared entries from the journal I kept as I learned to be a principal, Maintenance Manny planned to stop bicycling boys from joyriding at night on the school’s roof by cutting the only tree on the playground. I appealed. He won. But, as the following excerpts show, I didn’t have time to fret about it.
Oct. 14: I was in a district administrators’ meeting on technology all afternoon. When I returned to the empty school, I found a note from a fourth-grade teacher. “I thought you’d enjoy knowing that Jeff Z. in my class caught several lizards in the sagebrush behind the school, then sold them in the lunchroom for a dollar or three cookies, depending on the lizard’s size. I told him you’d deal with it tomorrow.”
Oct. 15: As I supervised a lunchroom filled with 150 youngsters eating chocolate pudding and talking with their mouths full, a visibly upset teacher accompanied by an equally distressed parent approached. “Mrs. Bohart, do you have a minute? Mrs. Nelson made 100 cookies for the PTA tea this afternoon. When she brought Betty to school this morning, she left the cookies in the staff lounge, and now, there’s nothing left but crumbs. What should we do?”
Oct 16: Before school, a teacher entered my office and shut the door. Fighting back tears, she confided a heartbreaking secret and said she’d need a sub the next few days. When I responded with sympathy and concern, her tears flowed. Then she blew her nose, squared her shoulders and went to greet her students, carrying a burden that would have brought most of us to our knees.
Oct. 19: I hurried into the bathroom to wash my hands after the custodian led me to the smokers’ lounge off the furnace room to show me evidence of an invasion of mice: little bodies pinned by traps, deposits scattered willy-nilly and lots of scurrying activity. “What do you think we should do?” he asked.
“How the hell should I know?” I thought later, as I scrubbed my hands. Then, someone rapped on the restroom door: “Janet, are you in there? Josh vomited all over his desk; I can’t find the custodian; and I don’t know what to do!”
Oct. 21: A little girl kept me awake last night. A week ago, her teacher and I reported we thought she was in an abusive situation. As processes played out, we were interviewed and told heartbreaking details. Then we learned the child had been removed from her home and withdrawn from our school. Her situation haunts me.
Oct. 22: I was filling out a complex goal sheet for the district office when a second-grade teacher stuck her head in the door. “Janet, you have to hear this. My class was entering the cafeteria when Sam realized he’d forgotten his lunch ticket. I told him he needed to go back to the room and get it. He replied, ‘‘But this school is really big. That’s a long way.” So I said I’d walk with him, and he answered, “Well, if you’re going anyway, why don’t you just bring it back with you?”
Oct. 23: A parent, who wanted her fourth-grade daughter to have homework in every subject every night so she would score well on the standardized tests next spring, didn’t like the advice I offered. As she stormed from my office, a noon playground aide approached with a sloshing bottle of Mountain Dew and two abashed fifth-grade boys. “Michael and Julian peed in this bottle and tried to get Stan to drink it. I told them you had a special punishment for such behavior.”
The Thanksgiving break can’t arrive soon enough.
Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at auntbeulah.com on the first and 15th of each month.
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